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What We're Watching: Modi plays to his base, US visit to Taiwan irks China, Colombia arrests ex-leader

Modi riles up his base: Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday set the first stone for a new Hindu temple to be built over the remains of a Mughal-era mosque in Uttar Pradesh state. The site, in the town of Ayodhya, has been disputed for decades by Hindus and Muslims, but the Supreme Court last November ruled, based on archeological findings, that construction of the temple could begin. The ruling dismayed many of India's 180 million Muslims, who worry that Modi — who was accompanied at the ceremony by Mohan Bhagwat, an ultranationalist Hindu activist whose followers helped to destroy the old mosque amid a wave of sectarian violence in 1992 — wants to replace India's secular foundations with his more explicitly Hindu vision of the country's identity. Although months ago Modi saw sizable protests over a controversial new citizenship law that discriminated against Muslims, he has so far proven to be extremely resilient and remains widely popular in India.

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Sri Lanka is voting, China is smiling

Voters in the island nation of Sri Lanka, located in the Indian Ocean just off the coast of India, head to the polls today in a legislative election that could not only reshape the country's democracy, but affect the geopolitical balance of power in Asia.

The election is a family affair. The vote is an opportunity for a party controlled by the Rajapaksa family, a powerful political dynasty that ran the country with a strong hand from 2005 to 2015, to cement their rule over the country again. In 2015, they lost the presidency to the opposition, which took steps to strengthen Sri Lanka's democracy but failed to deal effectively with terrorism and the economy.

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What We're Watching: India has the world's fastest growing epidemic, clashes in Darfur, US election calendar

COVID-19 pummels India: India, home to 1.3 billion people, passed a grim milestone recently as the country with the fastest growing epidemic in the world, according to Bloomberg's COVID tracker. Reporting over 1.43 million cases on Monday, a 20 percent week-on-week increase, it now trails only the US and Brazil in the number of confirmed coronavirus cases. Indeed, several factors have complicated India's efforts to contain the virus. Workers who toil in the country's robust informal sector do not have the luxury of working from home. Meanwhile, social distancing and hygienic upkeep are all but impossible for millions of people living in crowded slums. On Monday, India recorded one of its highest daily caseloads, with almost 50,000 reported infections, likely a gross undercount considering that the country still has one of the lowest testing rates in the world. (India is testing around 12 people per 1,000, compared to 153 in the US, 130 in the UK, and 184 in Russia.)

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The Graphic Truth: Demographics and economic power

Updated on 08/29 to correct the positions of Japan and Germany in 2020.

Will demographic trends change the pecking order of the global economy three decades from now? Yes, but not as much as some experts have predicted. According to a new study, in 2050 China will have surpassed the US as the world's largest economy — despite China's population declining while America's keeps growing (mainly due to immigration). India will also rise economically as it becomes the world's most populous country, while Japan will stay in fourth position despite a shrinking population. We take a look at where the world's top 10 economies will be ten and twenty years from now, showing each country's projected population size.

When strongmen move from push to shove

Over the past few years, we've seen three major emerging powers take bold action to right what they say are historical wrongs.

First came Crimea. When the Kremlin decided in 2014 that Western powers were working against Russian interests in Ukraine, President Vladimir Putin ordered Russian troops to seize the Crimean Peninsula, which was then part of Ukraine. Moscow claimed that Crimea and its ethnic Russian majority had been part of the Russian Empire for centuries until a shameful deal in 1954 made Crimea part of the Ukrainian Soviet Republic. Americans and Europeans imposed sanctions on Russia. But Ukraine is not part of NATO or the EU, and no further action was taken.

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